Yes, this album came out over a month ago. I started writing this at that time and it’s been languishing half-written in my drafts folder ever since, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
Laura Veirs is a singer-songwriter who is originally from Seattle, but recently moved to Portland. She has previously performed solo, but is now working with a backing band. You may recognize her name from the duet of “Yankee Bayonet” that she did with Colin Meloy on the latest Decemberists album.
I relatively new fan of hers, I saw her open for a Colin Meloy solo show about a year and a half ago, and was not really impressed. Then one day I forgot to bring my CDs to my radio show and had to search through the thousands of CDs in the station for an hour worth of music, which ended up being pretty much everything in there that I had actually heard of, including Laura Veirs. I discovered that her music makes a lot more sense on CD, when she is not having to loop things to get her lush sound. Fast-forward a few weeks: I had to make an unplanned trip to North Dakota over Thanksgiving break and I found myself listening exclusively to her Year of Meteors and +/-‘s Let’s Build a Fire while fighting my way through airport-on-Thanksgiving insanity. Consequently these two albums have become two of my favorite albums of all time. A tough act to follow, and something that the holders of other albums on this list have not been doing so hot at (ahem…Modest Mouse, I’m looking at you), but Laura Veirs has managed to put out the first album in months that has lived up to its predecessor and I might even venture to say, eclipsed it.
Saltbreakers starts off sounding very similar to Year of Meteors with Veirs’ clear voice floating over guitar and some mild electronic beats. The third track, “Don’t Lose Yourself” is where the album really takes off. That track marks the first use of piano for Veirs and it’s a wonder it has taken her this long to realize that her music is made for piano, it fits seemlessly with the dense guitar and string sound prevalent in her music. There is also a children’s choir backing her on “To The Country”, which came off a little creepy the first time I heard it, but has definitely grown on me. “Phantom Mountain” takes a more rockin’ turn, only to be followed by the simple “Black Butterfly” with Veirs singing to a simple piano accompaniment. The concluding song, “Wrecking” includes the backing strings common to Year of Meteors and ends on a maddeningly unresolved chord, which seems an odd choice, but I guess she was going for the “leave them wanting more” effect.
In addition to being her best album yet, Saltbreakers is also Veirs’ most accessible. The songs have distinctive, catchy melodies and there are fewer lyrics about “trees and wind and rivers and fish and shit” as my music director at the radio station puts it than her previous albums. This is the perfect background music for reading boring textbooks because it is interesting enough that you break up the mundanity of reading yet another thinly veiled Russian analysis of religion absconding as a “novel” but not so manic that you can’t concentrate. If you’ve always wondered who this Laura Veirs person is, this is the album to use to find out.
[mp3] Laura Veirs-Pink Light